Do We Believe in U.F.O.s? That’s the Wrong Question, New York Times, 28 July 2020
This first paragraph was what started me on my journey back in 2018. No one has answered the question yet, “What Is It?”:
We were part of The New York Times’s team (with the Washington correspondent Helene Cooper) that broke the story of the Pentagon’s long-secret unit investigating unidentified flying objects, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, in December 2017.
The Pentagon is being briefed on, studying, and “arranging access to” … “UFO crashes and retrieved materials.”:
Since then, we have reported on Navy pilots’ close encounters with U.F.O.s, and last week, on the current revamped program, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force and its official briefings — ongoing for more than a decade — for intelligence officials, aerospace executives and Congressional staff on reported U.F.O. crashes and retrieved materials.
Here’s the kernel of the article (I like that Margaret Mead quote.)
We’re often asked by well-meaning associates and readers, “Do you believe in U.F.O.s?” The question sets us aback as being inappropriately personal. Times reporters are particularly averse to revealing opinions that could imply possible reporting bias.
But in this case we have no problem responding, “No, we don’t believe in U.F.O.s.”
As we see it, their existence, or nonexistence, is not a matter of belief.
We admire what the great anthropologist Margaret Mead said when asked long ago whether she believed in U.F.O.s. She called it “a silly question,” writing in Redbook in 1974:
“Belief has to do with matters of faith; it has nothing to do with the kind of knowledge that is based on scientific inquiry. … Do people believe in the sun or the moon, or the changing seasons, or the chairs they’re sitting on? When we want to understand something strange, something previously unknown to anyone, we have to begin with an entirely different set of questions. What is it? How does it work?”
That’s what the Pentagon U.F.O. program has been focusing on, making it eminently newsworthy. And to be clear: U.F.O.s don’t mean aliens. Unidentified means we don’t know what they are, only that they demonstrate capabilities that do not appear to be possible through currently available technology.
It’s all classified. Which is why we’ll probably never get to see the evidence. Which will just feed the conspiracy theories:
Numerous associates of the Pentagon program, with high security clearances and decades of involvement with official U.F.O. investigations, told us they were convinced such crashes have occurred, based on their access to classified information. But the retrieved materials themselves, and any data about them, are completely off-limits to anyone without clearances and a need to know.
In that Pentagon slide above:
AAV = Advanced Aerospace Vehicles, “AAV does not refer to vehicles made in any country — not Russian or Chinese — but is used to mean technology in the realm of the truly unexplained.”
CONUS = Contiguous United States
In 2017 when the New York Times published their first article detailing pilots’ encounters with … things flying in restricted airspace that aren’t bugs, birds, drones, or any identifiable phenomenon, according to the Pentagon … I asked, “What are these?”
No one is coming forth with an answer. The Pentagon acknowledged the things but can’t identify them. (“Navy spokesperson Joseph Gradisher: “the Navy considers the phenomena contained/depicted in those 3 videos as unidentified.”)
One would have thought that the government was studying them, but they said they weren’t. (“A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to requests from The Washington Post for comment, but in December , the military confirmed the existence of a program to investigate UFOs and said it had stopped funding the research in 2012.”) We now know that was a lie.
Now, here, in these back-to-back New York Times’ articles, there is discussion of “crashes and retrieved materials” possibly originating “off-world.” What?
Speaking about off-world intelligent life is not OK. Off-world life, say, bacteria, is OK, but certainly nothing more evolved and intelligent. Any utterance of it will invite ridicule. But, it’s wrong to tamp down curiosity. It’s certainly unscientific, as this recent article points out:
‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,’ Better Known as UFOs, Deserve Scientific Investigation, Scientific American, 27 July 2020
UAP are a scientifically interesting problem. Interdisciplinary teams of scientists should study them.
I’m going to entertain my curiosity. It may lead me to something mundane. Or it may lead me to to something worthy of wonder.
Here’s Christopher Mellon, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the third highest intelligence position at the The Pentagon, talking about the New York Times’ articles:
“… We have information from multiple radar systems, infrared systems, multiple naval personnel on the ground and in the air, and we’re tracking these objects performing maneuvers that clearly indicate they’re under intelligent control, they’re responding to our aircraft, they’re out maneuvering them, and they’re doing things that are far beyond any capability we possess.”
It’s not a bird.